6 Trends for the Future of Textiles from Heimtextil

At the world’s biggest fair for textiles, materials and technologies that were once experimental are now mainstream—and that bodes well for the planet.

Textile trends and technology intersected at this year’s Heimtextil, the massive global fair for textiles at Messe Frankfurt in Germany. The trend space curated by SPOTT was the soul of the show, weaving developments from around the world together in an expressive, cohesive context for designers, dealers, and specifiers—informing colors, styles, textures, and approaches to sustainability.

This addresses Heimtextil’s overarching theme, New Sensitivity, not only in the obvious sense of touch, sensation, and spirituality, but also in the impact of creating products and how it affects the humans using these textiles in residential and contract spaces. Recycling, upcycling, and circularity have never loomed so large, even though the fair has promoted sustainability for years.

It seems so long ago—in fact, it was prepandemic—that we marveled at displays on long tables holding examples of alternative sustainable materials, like “leathers” made out of banana skins. These novelties now are scalable, with many more resources in production. Even in the world of textiles, issues like climate change, biodiversity, mental health, and digitization are part of the conversation. Here are four trends for the future of textiles from Heimtextil:

66% of all American textile waste in 2018 ended up in the landfill. That’s 11,300 tons, and represented 7.7% of all landfill waste that year.

“Textiles: Material-Specific Data,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Unconventional Plant-based Textiles

These are textiles made from plant crops, like cactus, hemp, abaca, seaweed, and rubber, or plant by-products. We met a fifth-generation pineapple farmer from India, for example, who now is converting waste from his own family’s crop into a soft wool-like fiber that can be spun into fabric.

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Interior textile made from hemp by Devohome and boxes made of algae paper by Notpla.
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Made purely from the naturally grown Abaca banana plants, Banantex (R) is a durable, technical fabric.
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A vegan alternative to leather: Oleatex uses waste material from the olive industry. Algae-based wrapping containing olive oil by Notpla.
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Another plant based alternative to leather, Periskin, is made of waste from persimmon production.
hemp textiles
Bordeaux hemp from Ecological Textiles plus coral Wild Rubber by Amadeau Materials, plant colored textile by Sara Mey from VIA University College, VIA Design and Business.
plant-based textile
Desserto is a plant-based vegan textile made of the Nopal cactus in Mexico, an alternative to animal leather.
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Tanja Kirst’s woven tapestry collection explores the use of plant-based yarns and technical construction to reach more sustainable practices. The rug showcases how many colors can be constructed from using only 7 different yarn hues.

Textile Technologies Focus on Resource Use

Construction and design technologies are tapping into upcycling and recycling, reducing our reliance on virgin materials. We’re also seeing exciting new methods like 3D knitting, which can substitute for weaving and lead to less fabric waste. Alternately, there are weaving techniques that allow the creation of multi-colored weaves with only a few yarns.

Jute globe
Jute globe, designed by Mathilde FlyHeegaard from VIA U niversity College, VIA Design and Business, is a lamp shade constructed of jute and bioplastic. The base is Renewcell Cellulose Fiers to be used in their Circulose (R) process.
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Tanja Kirst’s woven tapestries are made from citrus, hemp, pineapple and seaweek yarns. The multiplicity of colors is achieved with the use of only seven different yarns in combination with different weaving techniques.
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Transforming surplus-and-waste extiles into bespoke design products and textile surfaces is the specialty of She Works Design Studio. All products are made in Denmark by women on the outskirts of the Danish labor market.
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Dinamic (R) by Miko is a suede-like microfibre made in Italy.It is produced in part by using recycled polyester without the use of organic solvents, with only a water-based process.
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About 50 per cent ultra-fine fibers made from recycled poolyster collected from film scaps produces the recycled textile Ultrasuede.
Not only was the Variant 3D display eye-catching, with two examples of upholstery on chairs, but the tech is fascinating. Variant 3D is a software company that pioneered a 3D knitting technique, turning industrial flatbeds into 3D printers for a collaborative ecosystem. Such contemporary design bridges the gap between decorative and functional for a variety of industries including automotive, fashion, textile, furniture.

Bioengineered Textiles Catch on

This is a fusion between nature and technology. Instead of growing plants and extracting fibers, the textiles actually are constructed from the protein, carbohydrates or bacteria in corn, grass and cane sugar. A bio-molecular process allows the creation of filaments that are made into yarn. With the same functionality of a synthetic, the product still is biodegradable because of its natural origin. 

Sheet set from Brooklyn Loft consists of 100 per cent CICLO(R) polyester. This illustrates bio-enhancing biodegrading textiles. The textiles have been embedded with biodegradable spotsCOL, which act like nutrient sources for microbes that naturally exist in the environment. This helps the synthetic textile to biodegrade more, in comparison to unimbedded synthetics.
Modern Meadows produces bio-engineered textiles with the use of nature’s building blocks: proteins. Bio-Tex (TM) is a coated textile that delivers color vibrance and performance, while reducing GHG emissions by more than 90 per cent, compared to traditional chrome-tanned leather.
Reducing the textile industry’s dependence on plastics, metals and minerals extracted from crude oil as a coloring source is the goal of Radiant Matter. The design-oriented biomaterial start-up focuses on sustainable embellishment components and surface coatings. Shown here is BioSequin, a biodegradable product made from renewable cellulose that shimmers with nontoxic, colorfast and pigmen-free colors.
Agricultural waste converted into nanocellulose is a developing microbial textile platform from Modern Synthesis. The fibers can be mechanically manipulated into desired shapes and structure, avoiding material waste. These non-toxic, biodegradable textiles are customized without using animal or artificial origins.
Automating Violacein is a project by Charlotte Werth, a graduate of Central Saint Martins MA Material Futures. It’s a chemical free nutrient bath that uses the dyeing properties of a bacterium, then sterilizes the fabric, using an energy-conserving UV lighting system. The particular wild, soil-dwelling bacterium Werth employs naturally produces color. Such bio-mimicry allows the use of bio-based dyeing for textiles.
Clearview by Alfredo Haberli is a textile for window covering for Kvadrat. It’s engineered to give a view out, with the highest level of solar resistance. So it provides thermal comfort while reducing the need for cooling and heating systems, with the associated energy consumption.

Textiles Adopt Regenerative Design Principles

In a global showcase by the London-based design futures consultancy FranklinTill, cutting edge materials illustrated the principles of regenerative design—that is, putting back better, creating holistic creative practices that restore or renew resources.

Agricultural waste from coconuts is the source for this new, natural biocomposite material. It’s developed from organic bacterial cellulose. Here’s how it works: coconut water that normally would be dumped after the coconut flesh has been harvested, is instead stored, sterilized and used to feed bacterial cultures. Eventually produced a compostable coconut leather, flexible, durable and with water resistant properties. The material, which can be molded into seamless 3-D objects, is available in a range of 10 naturally dyed shades.
A new bio-textile concept from Studio Sarmite called (Un)woven is made from low-grade fibers developed as an alternative to the traditional textile recycling process. Suitable for fashion, interior and product design applications, the robust material can be recycled and used again and again. With Roua Atelier, Studio Sarmite developed a dyeing process for blended fabrics that is integrated into the biotextile production.
Circularity is built into the design process with Desso carpet tiles by Tarkett. EcoBase ® backing and pile are taken apart at the end of their lifetime and returned to the production cycle, along with repurposed industrial waste such as chalk from the local drinking water industry. Post-consumer yarn is reworked into ECONYL ® by recycling partner Aquafil. The brand’s latest launch, AirMaster, uses a complex weave technique to capture dust particles to improve air quality. Photo: Tarkett, FranklinTill

Colors Drawn from The Earth

The trends in materiality and technology in no way stole the thunder from aesthetics. Color palettes featured natural pigments from the earth, including avocado seeds, algae, living bacteria, antique pigments such as raw siena, as well as bio-engineered indigo and cochineal.

Inspiration for color combinations with mix of yellow Wild Rubber by Amadeau Materials, Ciclo yarn and Banbu’s Leather by Von Holzhausen. This alternative is 83 per cent plant-based (bamboo), biodegradable in a landfill, yet supple and durable as leather.
A Studio Anna Resei silk textile captures all the colors of the New Sensitivity.

Meeting Sustainability Standards

Hotels, restaurants and offices, public buildings, care facilities all have heightened demands for sustainability, and legal requirements are playing an increasing role in their selection of suitable textiles. A curated library at Heimtextil presented functional textiles from exhibitors such as Edmund Bell, Futura Leathers, and Vanelli, focusing on flame retardant, sound-absorbing, lightfast, antimicrobial, dirt repellant amd scrub resistant features.The selection is available online.

“Modern textiles are becoming more efficient and taking on new key functions such as sound insulation, fire protection and hygiene,” says Bettina Bar, show director for Heimtextil.

An interactive AI station drew a crowd at Heimtextil. The application example from Mannd showed how short questions about a specific material, color, pattern can be applied to chair, for example. Particularly interesting was pattern placement, how the design actually wrapped around curves. So, how artificial intelligence can serve as a tool for the textile industry, with digital tech like AR, AI and ASMR.

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